No memberships. No contracts.

Differences between fitness products and services

The push for Americans, young and old, to increase the amount of physical activity they do is not new. For the last several years, the news regarding the skyrocketing obesity rates and diseases related to obesity, as well as the fears of aging, loss of mobility, and physical and even mental function have been a driving force behind the surge in the marketing of exercise devices, programs, fitness centers and personal trainers.

While I believe that any increase in activity is a good thing and that there is no “best” or “perfect” workout, I do think that the consumer should be informed and aware of the differences between the various types of fitness/wellness products and services that are available. Not all products or services are a good investment of your time and money. You have to match up the type of product or service that best meets your specific goals and needs. Then you have to “vet” that product or service to make sure that can live up to your expectations.

Once you have decided that you want/need to find a way to maintain a healthy level of physical activity in your life, you have to begin the search for what will work best for you. The first big decision you will make is to determine if you are looking for a product, a service or both.

Products are things like a treadmill, a bicycle, a weight machine, exercise videos, and even gym memberships. Services are personal training sessions, pilates or yoga instruction, group classes, wellness coaching, or specific event coaching.

For the purchase of a product to help you, you have to use them. Here is where an honest look at your personality comes in; are you someone who will use a treadmill that you bought and put in your bedroom, basement, etc.? Or will it just become a glorified clothes rack? The same goes for purchasing gym memberships; will you go? Health clubs know, count on, and budget for the fact that a large percentage of the members they sign up will never use the facility or use it very rarely. This is good for their bottom line but doesn’t help you increase your activity level and health.

Services you purchase are more likely to result in an actual increase in your activity level. Having an appointment that you are paying for is a great motivator; it gets you up and to the facility, which is half the battle. Deciding to use purchased services requires a look into the realities of you and your life too. Does your life allow you to schedule a regular appointment? Can you control your schedule enough to make most of your appointments? Does your budget allow for the purchase of this service? Are you someone who wants to share your goals, needs, weaknesses, and strengths with someone?

Group classes that are included with your gym membership are not considered an actual service unless you pay extra for them. Without extra pay, the likelihood of attending available classes falls and success is rare. Group classes that require you to pay in advance have a higher success rate, but if the cost per class is minimal, many people easily skip pre-paid classes and justify it by telling themselves it didn’t really “cost” that much.

Only you can determine what course will work best for you. Many people find that a combination of joining a gym, running/walking group, group class facility, AND hiring an individual to provide personal fitness services is the best combination. Keeping a regular appointment with a trainer or instructor keeps many people from falling completely off the fitness wagon. They may go a few weeks of only seeing their trainer and not doing their cardio work on their own, but usually the trainer can motivate them, or guilt them into getting back at it.

If you do hire a personal fitness professional/trainer to be a part of your physical activity program, you have to do more due diligence in making sure you are hiring someone who has the education and experience to help you with your specific goals/needs.

Professional trainers are not just supposed to lead you in exercise; making you sweat is not the totality of their job. If you are going to pay a fitness professional, they should be able to help you with your overall wellness program. A professional will look at all aspects of your physical health and be able to identify weaknesses that need attention and form a plan that will not only get you moving more but improve your health now and keep you healthy and at a high level of function in the future. Good professionals should be addressing things like your posture and any injuries you may have or develop. They should know what things you like to do in your life, like golf or gardening, and develop a program to address those things. They should educate you about your body and you should be learning how to take care of it with or without them. Remember, if you decide to use professional help, make sure they have developed professional skills to do so. The lack of state licensing for fitness professionals does put the burden on you, the consumer. You can seek information and referrals from trusted sources, but often it’s “buyer beware”.

Whatever the choices you make, try to base them on an honest accounting of who you are. The more honest you are with yourself, the more likely you are to make choices that will lead to success.

The bottom line is we all have to include physical activity in our lives; our bodies are designed for this and do not run well without it. It is our responsibility to take care of our bodies and exercise is an important component to that maintenance. How you incorporate activity in your life is your choice; there are many out there and one will work for you.